Lactation Intensity and Postpartum Maternal Glucose Tolerance and Insulin Resistance in Women With Recent GDM

The SWIFT cohort

  1. Joseph V. Selby, MD1
  1. 1Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland, California
  2. 2Kaiser Permanente Northern California Medical Group, Oakland, California
  1. Corresponding author: Erica P. Gunderson,


OBJECTIVE To examine the association between breastfeeding intensity in relation to maternal blood glucose and insulin and glucose intolerance based on the postpartum 2-h 75-g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) results at 6–9 weeks after a pregnancy with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM).

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS We selected 522 participants enrolled into the Study of Women, Infant Feeding, and Type 2 Diabetes (SWIFT), a prospective observational cohort study of Kaiser Permanente Northern California members diagnosed with GDM using the 3-h 100-g OGTT by the Carpenter and Coustan criteria. Women were classified as normal, prediabetes, or diabetes according to American Diabetes Association criteria based on the postpartum 2-h 75-g OGTT results.

RESULTS Compared with exclusive or mostly formula feeding (>17 oz formula per 24 h), exclusive breastfeeding and mostly breastfeeding (≤6 oz formula per 24 h) groups, respectively, had lower adjusted mean (95% CI) group differences in fasting plasma glucose (mg/dL) of −4.3 (−7.4 to −1.3) and −5.0 (−8.5 to −1.4), in fasting insulin (μU/mL) of −6.3 (−10.1 to −2.4) and −7.5 (−11.9 to −3.0), and in 2-h insulin of −21.4 (−41.0 to −1.7) and −36.5 (−59.3 to −13.7) (all P < 0.05). Exclusive or mostly breastfeeding groups had lower prevalence of diabetes or prediabetes (P = 0.02).

CONCLUSIONS Higher intensity of lactation was associated with improved fasting glucose and lower insulin levels at 6–9 weeks’ postpartum. Lactation may have favorable effects on glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity that may reduce diabetes risk after GDM pregnancy.

  • Received July 26, 2011.
  • Accepted September 13, 2011.

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  1. Diabetes Care vol. 35 no. 1 50-56
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